“Let’s give them something to talk about,
A little mystery to figure out.”
—Bonnie Raitt, singer and songwriter

Dinner dates can be intimidating, awkward and a bit unsettling, very often because of worries about communication and connection. Will we actually have something to talk about? Will we have enough in common? Will he or she find me interesting? A glass of silky smooth Merlot, a cold beer or a dry martini (shaken not stirred, of course) is an easy way to reduce your anxieties and get the conversation flowing. However, if you have one too many, this technique could lead to some unintended consequences.

Or what worries might you have about communicating at those end-of-year holiday family gatherings? You might wonder if you will have something to talk about with your 15-year-old nephew, for instance. The easy solution would be to just let him stare into his electronic device playing the latest video game. But then the two of you would end up being not much more than strangers instead of having a meaningful relationship.

My wife and I recently attended a marriage workshop at a friend’s house. During the gathering the concept of table talks surfaced. The idea involves setting aside a little time prior to your dinner date or any conversation-based event to download and review a list of questions you can use to spark a meaningful discussion.

So I jumped online and found list after list of table talk conversation starters. In fact, a couple of industrious people are making money by turning the concept into a game and gift idea. One of my favorites was a list of 365 Table Talk Topic Questions. As you might imagine, a list that long covered a vast array of interests. As I perused the questions we could ask others, it struck me that we could also ask ourselves many of these same questions about our 2nd Act Lives.

Here are a few I thought were worth asking:

What would you do differently if you knew nobody would judge you?

Now is the time to live in a judgment free zone. As a near retiree or retiree, now is not the time for us to be worrying about what others think. That is the beauty of being in this stage of life. We can experience new activities, try different things, and live an authentic life by being our truest and best self. There’s no need to impress at this point. Just jump in and see where you land.

If you had to teach something, what would you teach?

I thought this was a good question to contemplate as a 2nd Act Lifer. How can you use your talents developed from years of experience to teach, coach, support, guide and mentor others? If this is something you’re passionate about, now is a perfect chance to look for ways to share your abilities and know-how for the greater good of all.

Are you holding on to something you need to let go?

Living the life we are fully capable of may be limited by self-sabotaging beliefs or by people in our life. You know the beliefs and the people. You’ll recognize them by how they make you feel and think. Watch out for those seeds of self-doubt and those woe-is-me “Eeyores” you may encounter. Personal growth can occur when you steer clear of such inhibitors.

What are you most grateful for?

Studies have shown that positive emotions, such as gratitude, unselfishness, hopefulness, forgiveness, happiness, compassion and optimism, have a positive influence on our long-term physical and mental health. And of these, gratitude has the greatest impact. While there are several benefits of living a life of gratitude, a few include a strengthened immune system, a decrease in anxiety and stress and an increase in our positive self-concept. Take time to be grateful.

If happiness was a national currency, what activities would make you rich?

Happiness has many of the same benefits of gratitude. So, how do you get happier? One way is by participating in those activities you enjoy most. You know, those activities where time just disappears and you are inspired, consumed and fully engaged. Identify those undertakings and then purposely schedule more time to stay involved in the pursuit of them. You’ll be happy you did!

These are just a few of the questions to consider for your 2nd Act Life. For a more in-depth exercise, download your own table talk list of questions and contemplate your reactions to a few more. It could be an eye-opening experience.

“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.” —Margaret “Meg” Wheatley, writer and management consultant

Gary A. Weuve, CFP®
Founder and CEO

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